About This Artwork

Eldzier Cortor
American, 1916–2015

The Room No. VI, 1948

Oil and gesso on Masonite
107.3 x 80 cm (42 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.)
Signed lower right: E. Cortor
Inscribed on verso: "The Room No. VI" / Eldzier Cortor / July, 1948 / oil on gesso / size 31" x 42" / Chicago, IL

Through prior acquisition of Friends of American Art and Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison; through prior gift of the George F. Harding Collection, 2007.329

© Eldzier Cortor.

At a time when abstraction dominated the American art world, Chicagoan Eldzier Cortor decided that a representational approach would better convey his chosen subject—contemporary African American life. Often, he incongruously depicted impoverished people in a luminous, even beautiful, manner. Cortor described his objective in making The Room No. VI: “This painting is one of a series of paintings of rooms, depicting scenes in the lives of people of the slum areas. [It] shows the overcrowded condition of people who are obliged to carry out their daily activities of life in the confines of the same four walls in a condition of utmost poverty. I attempted to combine the figure studies, the bed and the other elements of the room in an interesting pattern.”

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute, "Fifty-Third Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity," February 10-March 20, 1949, cat. 58.

University of Illinois, Champaign, Architecture Building, "Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting," march 4-April 15, 1951, cat. 25, pl. 13.

Possibly Ford Foundation, c. 1958.

Art Institute of Chicago, "They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910-1950," March 3-June 3, 2013, cat. 76.

Publication History

Ralph Pearson, "The Modern Renaissance in American Art: Presenting the Work and Philosophy of 54 Distinguished Artists," College Art Journal 14, 1 (Autumn 1954) p. 171.

"Thre Masters: Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith, Archibald Motley Jr.," exh. cat. (Kenkeleba Gallery, New York, 1998) p. 22 (ill.).

Annual Report (Art Institute of Chicago, 2007-2008), p. 19, ill. p. 7.

Sarah E. Kelly, "Notable Acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago," Museum Studies 35, 2 (Art Institute of Chicago, 2009) pp. 18-19 (ill.).

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 169.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 132.

Ownership History

The artist; Arthur Wright Sr., Bronx, New York; given to his son, Arthur Wright Jr., Riverdale, New York c. 1980; [Franklin Riehlman Fine Art, New York]; sold to Merrill C. Berman, Scarsdale, New York, c. 2005; [Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, 2007] sold to The Art Institute, 2007.

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